Azure Ray: Like You Never Left

AS PUBLISHED IN SKINNIE MAGAZINE, OCTOBER 2010.

Two alluring, saccharine ladies sip mimosas on a Friday afternoon at a bustling downtown Los Angeles restaurant. Amidst the grime and decay of the city, the prepossessing duo stands out in delicate garments and dark, elegant hair. They were together the night before, excited about the release of their new album Drawing Down The Moon, and likely the night before that, and before that as well. Best friends, closest comrades, partners in crime, Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor laugh together about the previous evening, when Thom Yorke of Radiohead walked in on the former while she peed.

Any oblivious onlooker would never suspect the near six years the two spent apart with only minimal communication. After all, such a lengthy amount of separation would certainly change each woman, make her not relatable to the other, right?

Not so much. Inseparable and uncannily alike in many ways, the reunited Azure Ray proves that not all band hiatuses are indefinite, that not all breaks require immense change, and that sometimes, husbands do know best.

“Maria was living in Los Angeles and I was living in Omaha. I was playing with Rilo Kiley, so I was coming to LA all the time for rehearsals and I would just stay with her and we just started hanging out. I’d be there for days at a time really reconnecting and having so much fun. She kind of talked me into moving to LA and I wanted to for a long time, and my husband was like ‘Well, if you guys do another Azure Ray record, we can move to LA,’” Orenda spoke of Todd Fink, lead singer of electronic dance party band The Faint. “So I was like ‘Todd thought we should do another record’, and it was the first time it had come up so it was just kind of thrown out there, and she was like ‘Okay!’ and I was like ‘Okay! Are we serious?’ And yeah, we were serious! So that’s kind of how it came about, and then I was like ‘I’ll move to Los Angeles, we’ll write for a year, and see how we feel.’ And we did, and here we are now.”

“It feels just the same, really. That’s the beauty of our relationship. It’s like coming home to your family after you’ve been gone for a long time. It’s like riding a bike,” Maria Taylor added.

For two people who have clearly enjoyed every moment spent together since high school and indulged in a constant state of play and fun, a hiatus makes little sense. In the scheme of things, however, too much of a good thing can become mundane.

“We had been making music together at that point for thirteen years and I think we both just felt like we needed to try something else and work with other people and do some solo things,” Maria explained. “Life is too short. You don’t ever want to take anything for granted, and I’m so glad we did that, because now starting out with the record it’s all brand new again.”

Months off became years, and years became half a decade. In this time, both stayed the music course; Orenda kept busy with two solo albums, an indie rock band Art in Manila, and an experimental project called O+S. Maria released four solo albums and toured often. It was just time, they both stated, that they regroup, and while many fans worried that such a reunion after so much time would require a change in sound, both Orenda and Maria beg to differ.

“It’s going to be different in some ways just by nature that we’ve spent six years apart and then came back. We were working independently and developing on our own, but we made a conscious effort to revisit Azure Ray to make it feel like it remained intact all those years. It was important to come back together and get back into that space with each other. We weren’t looking to take a huge stylistic departure. I would say the only difference is that the subject matter is different,” Orenda commented, assuring that only the quality of production on the new album increased, due to stylistic options opening up that were not available before.

A long road has been traveled for the duo, and although some obstacles presented themselves, a shaky start and a six-year hiatus to name a few, the pair would never change a thing. Orenda, a self-proclaimed nerd in high school, originally wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer, holding a high-paying job with the option of removing herself from the small town lifestyle. Maria, on the other hand, knew from her childhood years that she would be a singer, or, as a second option, a professional ballet dancer. An odd pair, they complement each other. While Maria is a well-known wine connoisseur who goes through yearlong phases of red zinfandel or pinot noir and vacations in wine country, Orenda has a slightly more unusual pastime.

“I love horror movies. I wrote a horror movie, and I have three more that are in my head,” she explained. “They’re really bad horror movies and I don’t know anyone in that genre at all, so I have to do a little research to see where I’ll even go with it.”

Although they come from different backgrounds, the women of Azure Ray hold nearly identical outlooks on life, a message that resonates loud and clear in many of their songs.

“If you look around and you realize that you’re seeing the negative in everything and you’re not happy, it’s time to change your life. I’m all about making changes to make myself happy. I’ll move across the country or I’ll move to another country.” Maria, “LadyLuck”, explains. “If I’m not happy then I’m not treating the people around me good. My motto in life is to just do what you have to do to make yourself happy and then you’ll make other people happy. And then we’ll all be one big happy family!”

And a family the pair certainly is, Maria adds, “Saying we’ve been close friends is just belittling what we have. She’s like a sister to me and we’ve just been like that since we were sixteen years old.”

Azure Ray gives hope. Not only to those who find themselves in undoubtedly miserable situations and find solace in their music, but also to those downcast about the outlook of their favorite musical groups on hiatus, such as Sigur Rós or The Killers. Reunited after six bustling years, Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink realized it was well overdue and have given the world Drawing Down The Moon and a pile of tour dates and the assurance that neither of them is going anywhere.

“I’m sure eventually we’ll do another Azure Ray record. I just want to keep making music with different people by myself and try and do it all,” Maria said. After all, with a dream lifestyle, why wouldn’t they stick around? “I love making music, I love meeting new people, I love drinking alcohol, it’s like that’s all part of my job! Sometimes can’t believe it. It’s great, I love my life.”

Original link: https://issuu.com/skinnie_magazine/docs/skinnie-october-2010-jackass-3d – pages 42–43